Coloring Page Tuesday - Big Read

     I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the reading I have to do here at uni. Sort of like this mouse. He's trying this book on for size... looking at it sideways... I think he'll be fine, don't you? CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Dissertation Writing

It's a bit quiet on my blog this week because I'm in the middle of writing my Masters Dissertation (called a Thesis in the US). It will be 6,000 words on, "Comparing US and UK Picture Books: An Analysis of Cultural Contexts Between Medal-winning Titles" - or at least, that's what it is right now. I'm at 11,000 words with more to go and lots to cut.
     I'm also finishing up studio work for our December 6th semester deadline. So, please be patient with me while I get through this enormous hurdle. And know that this is indeed part of my Edinburgh adventure - just a very demanding part!
     Meanwhile, here are some random images and hints at my experiences right now. This first one is a sign I pass every morning on my way to buy a cup of tea from Mustafah.

My textiles workshop, in progress...

I'm still finding gloves on fence tines and recording them. This will turn into something, not sure what just yet. I have about thirty of them.

Best of all, the MAs are graduating right now. Lilly (peace sign) came by to say 'hi' to all of us who are still slogging it out. This will be us come the end of May. Lilly is an inspiration to us right now. This is me, Karin (also graduated), Boris, Lily and Nadee.

VIDEO: How Wolves Changed Rivers

"How Wolves Changed Rivers" is an amazing accounting of how the reintroduction of wolves can positively affect their ecosystem in ways one might never have considered. Fascinating and beautiful. Click the image to watch the video on Youtube.


One of my favorite publishing houses, Flying Eye, recently sent me a fabulous graphic novel for younger readers that I positively flipped over. Happily, the creator of ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE, Joe Todd-Stanton is here today to tell us more about it.

e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
The main thing I try and do is keep a sketchbook on me and draw whenever I get the chance. Living in London this means 99% of my sketches are done on buses and tubes, which I think are a great place for inspiration. My ideas pretty much always come out of these doodles and it's really rare for me to ever get an idea for a story or single illustration fully formed in my head. Once I have done a drawing that I like I will try and come up with an extra element or see if I can fit it into a bigger narrative. I will then obsessively draw it over and over again until I have developed it into something I want to take to final or never want to look at again. This means doing a final sketch and then scanning that in and doing the final line and colour work using my tablet.
e: What is your medium?
Very simple. Just a pencil, paper and Photoshop. I would love to branch out into other mediums but I am very non committal. I think these days Photoshop gives you the amazing ability to experiment with pretty much everything.
e: Your palette seems so strongly red and green - is that a conscious decision?
They are both colours I love a lot. Especially Turquoise, which is a colour I have to actively stop myself from using to much. One reason is probably that books like Where the Wild Thing's Are, which uses a similar dark colour scheme, had a massive influence on me. Also, up until my last year of University I had always worked in Black and White, so since then I think I have always felt more comfortable with a limited colour pallet.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again? I’m looking for your definition of “Heart Art.”
That's a very hard question to answer! I think it's to what extent a book can inspire a kids imagination. When I was young, any book that gave me sense of a world beyond the pages would instantly have me hooked. Especially if that book gave me a sense of magic whilst still being somehow grounded in the real world so some part of me could feel like it was possible.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Well, it's not very funny but it did come out of an idea that was completely different. Originally, I wanted to make a book that documented different kinds of mythical creatures with a narrator that kept souvenirs from each discovery. It would have been much more information based and I wanted to do analytical cross sections of the creatures and their environments. This narrator ended up becoming professor Brownstone and then the rest of the story morphed around his character. I would still love to come back to the original idea one day.

e: What was your path to publication?
Three years ago when I finished university we had our final show at the Coningsby Gallery in London. Someone from Nobrow must have seen my work because the next day they contacted me asking if I had any ideas for a project. Then with the incredible help and patience of Sam and Harriet from Flying Eye it took nearly two years of on and off developing and changing my original idea to come up with a solid narrative.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I think that like pretty much every artist I am my own worst critic so making anything that I am kind of happy with is always great. I also love coming up with an idea and then trying to push it as far is it can go, whether that is just one character's individual expression or the detail in a massive image. (Joe's studio...)
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I put a lot of emphasis on books in the story because they are a great way of having adventures in the comfort of your home. I think that amazing ability of being able to get lost in a book is something we shouldn't forget about passing on to the next generation. Although, I guess I would say that being an author!

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I am currently just about to finish the art work on my second children's book, which is about a girl called Erin from a fishing town that discovers a secret. The story is based on an illustration I did back in university so it will be so amazing for me when I finally get to see it in print. In terms of dream jobs I would absolutely love to illustrate Peter Pan as it has always been my favourite story. So if any publishers are reading this!!

e: Thanks Joe! And I hope you'll come back to share Erin with us when she's ready for the world.

Ellen and Delia's Fabulous Visit

Rather than rush around to see all the touristy things in Edinburgh at one time, Stan and I have been waiting for friends to come in town to see the main attractions. That way, we get to see them for the first time too, and with friends. So far, it's worked out great. And our friends are so varied and interesting, we have yet to duplicate anything!
     For example, recently Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman came to visit from New York. It was a whirlwind trip for them with book signings in Glasgow and London, finally landing with Terri Windling in Chagford (Devon) for some quiet writing time. We were lucky enough to have them in Edinburgh for a few days.
     As a thank you for lodging, they treated us to dinner at The Witchery. I had been eager to try this place and it's no wonder. It's right on the Royal Mile, just near the castle. In fact, our friend Dave B Mac was playing his slap guitar just up the street when I arrived. He jumped up to give me a hug. (I think he was just really cold!) We often go see him play at venues, and the Royal Mile is one of his regular spots during the day.
     Back to The Witchery... The interior exceeds expectations. Here's the dining room and us in it:

     Heck, even the ceiling was stunning!
     Ellen and Delia chose to see The Palace of Holyrood House as their big thing. This is where the Queen stays when she visits Scotland. Luckily, she wasn't in, so it was open to the public for tours.
You're not allowed to take pictures inside, so you'll have to settle for these exterior shots. But I think this will give you an idea of the grandeur.

The best thing about visiting the palace was seeing it with two history buffs who really know their subjects! We hung out in the portrait rooms (a.k.a. the Throne Room) while Ellen and Delia relayed fantastic stories about the people I was looking at and the scandals around them - awesome!

     It was dark when we left (4:00pm) and we'd been walking/standing all day. Ellen found us a lovely little tea shop where we could unwind.
     She loves catching candid shots of folks when they're not paying attention. Here are me and Delia sporting all our glorious grey locks.
Although sometimes she gets caught, like here at The Ox for dinner.
     Truly, we have been so fortunate to have such wonderful friends come to visit us. We feel spoiled and grateful and so happy to share our new adventure with those we love!

Edinburgh Salon Thanksgiving

Once again, our friend Connie hosted her Edinburgh Salon at our flat for Thanksgiving. (This is a dining club that moves around each month.) Being the Americans in the bunch, with the recipes for all the 'strange' Thanksgiving food, it seems only natural. But our flat is a bit hard to find. So, Amandine came over early to help blow up balloons as signage.
While Connie set out the champagne glasses for the opening toast.
Decorations were provided from Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman who visited over the weekend from New York - more on their trip soon!
Once again, our flat held a lovely group of people. "Where interesting people meet for great food" is the salon's motto after all! Here is our hostess Connie with Marta and Terry...
And some party-goers...

They waited patiently as Connie and Stan said a few words about the spread (although Amandine's expression relays how hard that must have been.

The victors of the fabulous spread...
And then the carnage began!
Our flat filled up beautifully with happy people eating green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows (that's the most talked-about dish), cornbread stuffing, and TURKEY!

Best of all, Connie made a gluten-free pumpkin pie just for me! Awwww! It was YUMMY!
I hope your Thanksgiving is as lovely as ours. Stan and I wish you a very Happy Holiday!

VIDEO: Bamboo!

I love seeing the inventive and ingenious things that artisans around the world create, like these amazing bamboo structures in Bali created by Elora Hardy and her team. Click the image to learn more about them in a very cool TED Talk.

Show and Tell

I often take photos of the work I've accomplished in a day to share with Stan when I get home. This time, I thought I'd share them with you too.
     You've seen the crosshatch pieces I've been creating. Well, Vivian showed me a picture book recently, John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat. The artwork was crosshatched and then colored, much like Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. I wondered what my pieces would like like with color added. What do you think?


What a nice surprise! My picture book, Soap, Soap, Soap has been chosen to be included in the monthly books delivered through BOOKCASE.CLUB for Kids. Click the image to learn more.

Fiona Robinson's ADA'S IDEAS

Guest Post by Fiona Robinson

      When writing I try to gather as many facts about about a situation or person, then I let my imagination go! For Ada’s Ideas, my first non fiction storybook, I had to do a lot of research. I read a lot, but then also took trips to places: the Silk Museums at Macclesfield, the Science Museum in London, and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. It was fun but hard work!

For Ada’s Ideas my art process was as follows:
      With the art I wanted to try something new - 3 dimensional images, which I hoped would capture a little of the Victorian era, and the drama and theatricality of Ada’s life. This involved drawing out the images, then painting them with my favorite Japanese watercolors.
     I then cut out the images very carefully with a sharp blade. I used over 500 blades to produce all the cut images for the book!
     Once cut, I layered all the images for each spread to different heights using my son’s Lego bricks and glued them in place.

Heart art:
     I think what makes an illustration magical is imagination. Sometimes illustrations look good because they’re technically proficient. What I like to see and feel with my illustration is that I have poured my heart into it, that I’ve tried my best, and that I’ve created something that will draw readers in - that will connect with them somehow, make them think and feel wonder for the story.
     I first got into writing and illustrating children’s picture books about 10 years ago, though it’s something I wanted to do since I was about 6 years old!
     When I was young it made me so happy to listen to adults reading picture books. You had their undivided attention, and the picture books were made specifically for children, something primarily for us. Picture books can be many things to a child, but I think what drew me in most was how they seem to make sense of a complicated world. A picture book can not only tell a story, it can spark imagination, and be a friend.
     My favorite part of being a creator is that I spend a lot of time in my own world! Whilst it is a demanding job and not at all easy, it means I get to spend my hours being a child again, inhabiting a place where imagination roams free! I hope that with Ada’s Ideas, children and adults will get a sense that while hard study is good and a foundation for life, the most important thing is to have ideas, an imagination. With that you will soar!
Check out the book trailer on YouTube: